ABDUL RASHIDI reviews Awolnation’s new album, Here Come the Runts

After their most notable hit was hijacked by the now deceased app Vine, Awolnation are back with a new album, Here Come the Runts, continuing to add an unusual sound to the rock genre. The band has navigated their way through changing line ups and tour cancellations to find their footing once again and live up to the expectations set by their mammoth track ‘Sail’.

‘Passion’ is the lead track from this record and has already charted on the alternative rock charts. With falsetto-filled verses, the track suddenly escalates into a sharper, electrifying chorus. Written by lead vocalist and longest standing member, Aaron Bruno, the song was a response to a journalist who criticized the band’s 2015 album Run. Speaking to MYP Magazine, Bruno discussed how a particular review of the last record had affected him: “I read a review of the last record, with which I disagreed a lot. It said that the record lacked passion and that broke my heart because I was extremely passionate about it!” Bruno took these criticisms on board and his response was to deliver pure, unadulterated passion.

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Here Come the Runts brings a new level of emotional and lyrical honesty to the band. This is most striking on ‘Jealous Buffoon’, a song which carefully balances uncertainty with introspection, as lead singer Bruno sings: ‘You can tell that I’m the only elephant in the room’. As the song wears on, Bruno’s obsession begins to spiral out of control, as he fails to get closer to the one he admires: ‘I have trouble, so much trouble keepin’ eyes off of you’. The staccato strings complement the soft vocals and the supremely sticky lyrics.

This new project also allows the listener to fully delve into Awolnation’s characteristic blend of genres. Some of these experiments do not fully pay off. ‘Sound Witness System’, for example, provides some slightly cringe-worthy rap in the first half, before returning to a safer, more rock orientated sound in its second half. Nonetheless, despite these relative missteps, the band continues to prove that they are ready to challenge the sometimes rigid framework of rock music. 

‘Handyman’ is the most different-sounding track on the album. Initially, it has an almost country-eqsue feeling: a lightly strummed guitar introduces the song and the vocals bear a softer tone when compared with the rest of the LP. The song’s chant-like chorus and choral backing vocals add to this serene atmosphere, providing a welcome change of pace in an album that is mostly full-throttle.

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Highlights come in the form of the tried and tested anthems that the band are known for. The thumping, unrelenting ‘Stop That Train’ opens with Bruno singing about ‘finally coming up for some air’, perhaps a metaphor for the band finally finding their own unique musical identity. When we reach the half way mark of this 6-minute-long track, the listener has to literally try to ‘stop that train’, with the overpowering combination of bass and blaring guitars. The title song follows a similar formula, gradually building into a heart-racing anthem punctuated with elements of electronica, making for the most riveting moment on the entire album.

For fans, this record may provide more than they bargained for – Awolnation seem to be trying to appeal to a larger audience. However, though the band experiment with new sounds, the sonic components which characterize an Awolnation track remain. Overall, the album is well-thought out and complex, with the band retaining a sense of their traditional identity whilst moving in a new musical direction.

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